RALEIGH, N.C. (WGHP) — Governor Roy Cooper on Wednesday signed an executive order that rewards eligible state employees with a day of vacation leave if they get their first COVID-19 booster shot, according to a statement released by the governor’s office.

The order provides up to eight hours of fully paid leave to eligible state employees who, on or before August 31, 2022, provide their agency with documentation that shows they received their first booster shot for COVID-19.

The order applies to cabinet agencies and any other state agencies that voluntarily adopt the executive order’s measures.

“We have seen the importance of vaccines and their effectiveness in keeping more people from ending up in our hospitals or becoming very sick,” Cooper said. “Staying up-to-date on shots and getting boosters will help keep our state employees and communities safe.”

In July 2021, Cooper signed an executive order announcing that the state would begin verifying the vaccination status of cabinet agency workers. Unvaccinated employees were required to be tested at least once a week.

Since the policy was adopted, cabinet agencies have seen an increase in the number of employees who received their COVID-19 shots.

Across the Governor’s cabinet, the percentage of vaccinated employees jumped from 65% in September 2021 to nearly 78% as of late April 2022.

With the majority of state employees vaccinated against COVID-19 and infection rates relatively low, state government is pausing the testing requirement for most unvaccinated workers in place since last summer and implementing the new plan to provide paid leave to encourage boosters. 

The paid leave is available not only to employees who receive their first booster shot between May 4 and August 31 but also to employees who have already received their first booster shot.

Employees will have until March 31, 2023, to use the extra leave.

You can read the full executive order here.